Christmas Math & ELA Stations in Kindergarten

I mentioned in my last blog post that I have been MIA from blogging and social media due to accepting a job as a kindergarten teacher a few miles up the road.  I was not expecting to start working again (as a paid teacher) until fall of 2017.  My mind has been wrapped around all things grad school related for so long, I was thrown for a loop when I was offered a job out of the blue.  For whatever reason, my heart said yes.  Luckily, the school district and I were able to work it out so that I would still be on track to graduate on time, which is coming up this weekend.  (YAY!)

I want to back things up a bit to fill you in on some of the details.  This was not at all a typical situation.  To step in as the replacement teacher two months into the school year is not optimal.  It was a classroom in need of, well, a lot.  A lot of structure.  A lot of routine.  A lot of S-T-R-O-N-G classroom management skills.  A lot of knowledge of child development.  A lot of content knowledge of state standards and how to implement those standards with a group of students in dire need of an environmental overhaul.  Again, the theme of my life for the past two months has been..."a lot".  It has been a lot of diligent, challenging, methodical work to get this group of little learners rebooted.  They needed a highly structured teacher to come in and teach them what school is all about so they have the opportunity to be successful this year and beyond.  Luckily, I was able to provide them with what they needed, and I did it in a way that has been SO MUCH FUN!

I knew right away that I wanted to implement learning stations for math and ELA.  Creating and managing learning stations has been one of my strengths for many years, and I love the hands-on  environment stations create for young learners.  Direct instruction is necessary, but time to practice what teachers are preaching is a critical step for children.  Stations are also a great way to differentiate work for children with varying academic and developmental needs.  They allow slower workers to work at their own pace, while fast finishers can do their thing and start over again for more practice.  Children who are developmentally a bit behind the bulk of the group gain exposure to and practice with grade level concepts, which will allow them to move forward in their learning when the time is right.  Teachers, IAs, and volunteers are able to support each student as needed, while giving room for independence.  It's a beautiful thing.

I've posted a few pictures taken during our daily ELA and math stations.  From left to right; my alphabet letter matching file folder game with magnet letters (found in my TPT store), whole group sentence writing on mini white boards, measuring holiday shapes with Unifix cubes (by Nicole Ricca), building alphabet letters on the light table with the Handwriting Without Tears shapes (from Amazon), gingerbread dice addition game (by Nicole Ricca), more whole group sentence writing on mini white boards.  Again, these are SMALL snippets of all we do in the classroom during station time.  For the record, I did not tell them to write "I love you Mrs. C", but I do love to read it and see it!  :)

My husband made the white boards and light table for me.  Love him!

A station favorite is write the room.  I had everything read to go.  My tiny, aqua pocket charts I bought at Target back in the summer.  There are four charts hidden around the room.  Inside the pocket charts are the holiday WTR cards I created a couple of years ago.  The matching recording sheets reside in the tub dedicated to that station.  The only thing my classroom was missing for this particular activity was clipboards, and that problem was solved with a quick trip to Wal-Mart.  These littles are so proud of their writing.  They bring me their clipboards to show off their hard work, and then they ask if there are more words they can write.  I love it!  I have noticed more and more students heading over to the pocket charts during Writer's Workshop when they get stuck writing  a word.  Although they are encouraged to pull the sounds out of words when writing, I have to admit that I am impressed with their ability to use the resources in our classroom!  (Can I hear an amen from those of us who turn to Google each time we need to write an unfamiliar word?)  I can hardly wait to switch the WTR activity to "winter words".  You can find my Christmas and Winter write the room activities in my TPT store by clicking here.
Writing the room is serious business in kindergarten, folks. 

And that brings me to my dramatic play bakery.  At the very end of our day, I have 25 minutes of free choice center time built into my schedule.  This time allows me to touch base with each student and make sure they have their backpacks stuffed and ready to go home for the day.  It's simply a fun way to end the day.  They get to choose from five or six options that are presented to them on the interactive white board.  Dramatic play is one of those options.  We'll talk more about how I let children choose where they want to spend time in a future post.

This classroom was quite chaotic when I took over as the teacher.  All manipulatives, extra furniture, dramatic play props, books, crayons, pencils, glue sticks, etc. had to be removed from the room until I could guarantee children were able to be safe in the room with "extra stuff" sitting around all day.  One by one, the most critical items came back into the room, along with explicit instructions regarding how to treat those objects.  Sigh.  I told you.  It has been...a lot of work.

With that being said, you can imagine how THRILLED I was to see how quickly students shaped up and were able to "do school".  To celebrate our success as a class of learners able to cooperate and be safe, my husband and I spent our Thanksgiving break busting our humps to create a dramatic play bakery to be used during free choice centers.  We created this amazing walk-up window that will serve multiple purposes throughout the year.  With a quick canopy change, it can be an ice cream shop, flower shop, vet clinic, hot cocoa stand, post office, grocery store, food cart....the list goes on and on.  The silver base was an old TV stand we picked up at the Goodwill Outlet for $10.00.  The two pipes holding up the canopy are conduit, from Home Depot, covered with dollar store wrapping paper.  The canopy is made of PVC pipes that have been draped with wrapping paper.  It all pops apart for storage.  I will try to snap a few more pictures of the bakery before it "closes" for the season.  We will be making room for a new business to move in soon.  I hear that a coffee / hot cocoa stand had signed a lease already.  Shhhhhh...don't tell my students.  I want it to be a surprise when we come back from winter break.  :)
Our grand opening day as a success!  Those are cinnamon rolls, frosted cookies, and gingerbread men on the pastry shelf.

These kiddos are EATING UP KINDERGARTEN.  They went from literally running out of the classroom (and hiding in the parking lot) never wanting to leave the classroom.  When it is time for our learning stations during math and ELA blocks to be over for the day, I hear multiple, "Oh, maaannnnn!  I wanted to do it some more!"  Best of all, they have learned to be attentive during direct instruction and independent during our learning station blocks.  This means, I will be able to focus on small group instruction after the holiday break.  I am beyond thrilled with the way things have shaped up in our classroom.  We've come a loooooong way in 8 weeks.  I am one tired teacher...a lot.  :)

Unexpected (But Welcomed) Changes

Hello blog friends!  Long time, no blog posts.

Life threw me a big, happy curve ball at the end of October.  I received a phone call regarding a kindergarten classroom in need of a new teacher...the next day...and I said yes to the job offer.  So, I have been a full time kindergarten teacher since Tuesday, October 25!  I was not expecting to work in the classroom as a teacher until fall of 2017 due to all of the graduate school practicum hours I needed to log between now and mid-December 16 of this year.  I mean, who in the world expects to get a full time teaching position offered to them mid-year?  Not me.  My goal was to wrap up my reading endorsement and sub for a while.  What I ended up with is WAY better!  I am finally settling in a bit, and I feel as though life is starting to look as normal as it possibly can at this time.  So here I am writing to you.  I hope your Thanksgiving was amazing and you are enjoying what it left of the holiday break!

As unexpected as this has all been, it has been WONDERFUL to be back in my own classroom.  I am sitting here printing out my Christmas write the room packet so we can get crackin' on...well..writing the room starting Monday.  They will be so excited for another new addition to our Daily 5 routine.  It thrills me to watch their little faces each time I introduce something new.

Click image to preview and purchase this holiday packet!
Speaking of, my Daily 5 station tubs are prepped and ready to roll, and I will move on to prepping new math station tubs tomorrow, when my eyes are fresh.  (It is Thanksgiving break, after all.)  I love these silly little tubs so much.  They provide me with no less than two weeks of stations for my students, and these little learners are eating up the hands-on activities provided in the station tubs.  It took a couple of weeks of training to prep them for this independent work, but all of the effort was well worth it to me!  More pictures and info regarding my stations will be posted soon.

Gobble, gobble!

Illness strikes (again)..which led to these cool name mats!

Uggg, I am home sick today.  It's my birthday.  What a crummy way to spend a birthday.  Relaxing...but crummy.

I had a terrible migraine all day yesterday.  It was a super-crazy day at school so I didn't really think much of the head pounding and upset tummy.  It wasn't until I got home that I realized I was running a fever.  D'oh!  How did I miss that?  For anyone keeping track, I was also sick the week before last, and I spent all of last week trying to get over it.  I am hoping all of the germs my kindergarten buddies keep sending my way will somehow give me superpowers.  Flying would be a good one.  I could use that power in so many ways.

Anyway, a friend of mine asked me to make her a new somethin', somethin' to add to her kindergarten morning work routine.  I used this afternoon to create the template for her.  She needed something super hands on, but with loads of emphasis on each student's name to meet their developmental needs.  Something that would be engaging enough to capture their attention while multiple busloads of kiddos trickle into the classroom.  I also made a set for the classroom I am completing my grad school practicum in, but I am not sure they will be used much there because she already had her own system of morning work in place.  Perhaps she will be able to utilize the mats as a word work activity once Daily 5 begins.  If not, I have an amazing template to use in my own classroom...once I have a classroom of my own again.

Here's how this page works once printed and laminated.  Step 1, write your name with a dry erase marker. Step 2, build your name with letter tiles.  Step 3, shape your name with playdough!  SO MUCH FUN!  And yes, I am such a huge nerd that I made one for myself.  :)

I've already had several teacher buddies ask me for a template.  I'm on it, friends.  Check back soon for a FREE editable packet for these name mats.

Bustin' Out Letter Monster

I am probably a *little* too excited about this, but I can't help it.  My heart is deeply devoted to early childhood education.  When I see a group of kiddos highly engaged while learning...and BEGGING to learn more, I love it!  Letter Monster is one of those things.  I am telling you, Letter Monster is such a hit with pre-k and kindergarten friends, I can hardly wait until I introduce him to my kindergarten friends Thursday!

I found the idea of Letter Monster on Pinterest several years ago.  It was a very simple printable that happened to be free.  I printed him on Astrobright paper, laminated him down to an old hot chocolate container with clear Contact paper, and used en X-acto knife to trim out the mouth.  Clearly, Letter Monster is nothing fancy, but my students adore this activity.  Here's how it works.  We all say the chant together, and it goes like this:

Letter Monster, Letter Monster
Munch, munch, munch
What letter will you eat for lunch?

Then, one of my kindergarten friends must choose a letter.  They find both the upper and lower case version of the letter.  (They are spread out on the table or floor in front of the group.)  From there, that friend holds up both magnetic letters, says the name of the letter AND the sound it makes, the group repeats the name and letter sound, and the friend holding the magnetic letters FEEDS THEM to Letter Monster!  After that, we all write the upper and lower case version of that letter on an individual white board.  I am able to differentiate the level of difficulty for each group of kiddos I am working with at the time.  For instance, I used Letter Monster with a very young 3 year old preschool class, and I had children simple name the letter.  When they popped their letter in Letter Monster's mouth, he let out a big, "Yum, yum, yum yum yum!"  Of course, that sent my group of 3 year olds into a fit of laughter each and every time.  I love that this is a group effort activity.  It is a great way to build community and learn letter names and sounds.  If any child ever needs assistance, they can either ask a friend or me.  Sometimes they even ask Letter Monster.  Go figure!

My sweet husband cut my whiteboards for me.  He rounded each corner so my little friends would not get maimed in the process of learning to write.  He also drilled holes in the corner of each board so I could use a book ring to attach a BLACK men's tube sock, which we use as both an eraser and a house for a dry erase marker.

Notice I said black tube socks?  Yep, that is because white socks, or pretty much any color other than black, look TERRIBLE by the end of the school year.  I have used the same black socks for several years, and I have not had to replace a single one.  I do make a point to wash them at the end of the year...just because.  I mentioned above that one marker lives inside each sock.  This makes it super easy for my friends to simply grab a board out of the basket I use for storage, move quickly to their spot on the carpet or at the table, and get to work.  We are not messing around with crinkly gallon Ziploc bags or felt scrap erasers.  Of course, I teach and re-teach the marker saying DAILY so my markers last much longer than they once did.  "Give the cap a clip or the marker will get sick."  We do not want our markers to dry out because we loooooove using the white boards, so they are very well cared for by most of my kiddos.  Notice I said most and not all.  ;)

Do you have a favorite activity to do with your class?  One you just love bustin' out year after year because it is such a hit with students?  

QR Code Listen to Reading Book Rings {FREE}

I must brag about a free printable I found on Teachers Pay Teachers because it is PERFECT for those of us who are not as iPad savvy and techie as some teachers.  Meghan, from Meghan's Pad, posted a FREE printable to help the not-so-techie teachers of the world {ME!}.  I downloaded the freebie, downloaded a free QR code reader, tried out a few of my favorite books by scanning codes directly from the PDF on my computer screen, and promptly began the printing and lamination process.  No kidding. These are totally worth printer toner and laminating pouches!

Printed, laminated, cut, and ready for the hole punch!

I sorted the cards by category and added them to book rings.  I am considering making a cover page featuring a simple graphic/icon representing each set so my pre-readers can easily recognize the category.

So far, I have not found a code that does not link me to the featured picture book.  Meghan does warn us that some of the videos have been removed from youtube and/or may no longer work.  In my opinion, that is pretty much nature of the beast when it comes to anything online.

The videos open up in, which eliminates ads and the ability to hunt for more videos.  (Yes, many kindergarten children know how to search for videos on youtube!  I certainly do not want this happening in the classroom.) Anyway, the QR codes are a brilliant way to have children independently access a "listen to reading" activity.  I placed mine on a binder ring and will add them to my listen to reading center once I finally get my own classroom again.  (Grad school is really bustin' my teacher groove right now.)

Here's to Meghan!  I do not know her, but she has a special place in my teacher-heart right now.  She has inspired me to add to this already amazing collection by making a few cards of my own!  :)

Here is a link to Meghan's Pad blog post:

Here is a link to Meghan's Pad QR code printable on TPT:

Teacher Home Office ORGANIZING Day

I wish I could get paid to organize my home office.  As often as I go through these motions, I would be a bazillionaire by now.  Instead, I keep buying more and more and more and MORE stuff for my classroom.  I do not have a classroom right now due to being in a full time graduate program. With that being said, my little office is bursting at the seams!  I literally have an entire classroom worth of goodies in my office.  (Note the Rubbermaid totes under my work space, and that is only the TIP of the iceberg.  Not optimal!)

My most recent solution was to buy a couple of large file cabinets, as well as an office grade metal bookshelf.  It really did help me get organized and sort through what I have, as well as create a wishlist of what I need.  {That's right, more shopping and creating is in store for me!}

Ahhhhhhh!  I love organizing.  I wish I would have snapped a "before" picture.  This space has been totally transformed by adding the two file cabinets and black bookshelf behind my comfy chair.  :)

I finally have a place for my Guided Reader units and Guided Reading leveled readers (by Deanna Jump and Deedee Wills)!  Those binders are so huge, but they are SO WORTH IT!  Organize them JUST like Deanna says to.  Trust me.  It works.  (Get the binders at Goodwill if possible.)

Tah-dah!  A million file folder games, alphabet match ups, super-fun math stuff, and a so much more resides inside of those 8 drawers!  *TEACHER BLISS*
I am not quite done yet.  I am finalizing permanent homes for each of my files, but there are really only so many places I can shove things.  With that being said, I placed sticky notes on the drawer fronts so I could move and re-organize as I loaded and sorted.  I want to leave them there a few more days before making my final labeling decision.  I know, super classy, right???  They will most likely fall off between now and the time I actually get around to making real labels, and then I will have to start all over again.  I often feel as though my entire world revolves around fallen stickies.  :) 

Enough feeling sorry for myself.  The BEST part of this office re-do cost me $50.  I bought the file cabinets on Craigslist from a dear, sweet elderly man who was shutting down his business after 40+ years!  He kept telling us how the cabinets are HON brand, which are "the very best money can buy".  I believe it!  They are HEAVY DUTY file cabinets.  Moving them upstairs was a cross-fit session, for sure.  And the metal shelf, which weighs about as much as one of the file cabinets, came from the Goodwill Outlet for $10.  If you are not familiar with the outlet, otherwise known as "the bins", you must watch the Thrift Store video from Macklemore and Ryan Lewis.  You will pretty much find anything and everything at the bins, and you will be sure to take someone's grandpa's style while looking for a "come up".

Back to laminating I go, friends.  I will write more about HOW I chose to organize all of my stuff once I finalize my thoughts on the matter.  Thanks for reading about my exciting holiday weekend.  School starts Wednesday morning.  Wish me (and all 24 of my kindergarten friends) luck!

POLKA DOT Background EDITABLE "I Can" Statement Cards for Pre-K, TS Gold, Head Start Classrooms

They are done!  They are ALL done!  As of this moment, each of my I Can Statement Card packets has been updated to contain EDITABLE files, along with the original print and go PDF from way back when.  :)

The polka dot background I Can Statement Card packet has officially been uploaded to my Teachers Pay Teachers store. The packet includes the original 66 checkpoint I Can statements, as well as templates to create your OWN statements.  Here's a sneak peek of the packet contents...

Click image to preview and purchase this packet.  

Click image to preview and purchase this packet.  

Click image to preview and purchase this packet.  

Click image to preview and purchase this packet.  

The editable documents are PowerPoint files.  If you do not have PowerPoint, I can't guarantee you will be able to make edits and customize the cards to your liking (or at all).  However, the original 66 cards are included as a PDF file, as they have always been, for print and go action.  :)

Happy check-pointing with Gold!